Facebook’s ‘Gaydar’ Outs Gays

FacebookWhen it was recently revealed that a Ugandan newspaper was outing gays in its pages many people were shocked, but perhaps put it down to that country having societal values different from our own. Now it appears that America’s social media giant Facebook may be doing much the same thing, in its own high-tech way. From Gawker’s Valleywag:

Facebook allows users to list which gender of partner they’re “interested in.” But do you want Facebook’s advertisers to know if you’re gay? A Microsoft researcher has found a loophole which could secretly reveal a gay user’s sexuality to advertisers.

It’s no secret that Facebook, like many other online services, targets ads to different groups of users based on demographic data. But using a sensitive category like sexuality to target advertising—which Facebook apparently does—can lead to troubling privacy issues.

For a recent paper, researchers from Microsoft and Germany’s Max Planck Institute wanted to see if Facebook targeted ads based on sexuality, so they created six fake profiles: two straight men, two straight women, a gay man and a lesbian. (Besides gender and sexuality, the profiles were indistinguishable.) Then they observed what ads each profile was shown over a week’s time.

They found that the ads displayed on the gay man’s profile differed substantially from those on the straight one…

[continues at Gawker's Valleywag]

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  • Ironaddict06

    Why is this a problem? If a black person is receiving ads for Vibe magazine or BET-they are considered racist?

  • Ironaddict06

    Why is this a problem? If a black person is receiving ads for Vibe magazine or BET-they are considered racist?

    • http://twitter.com/enxnautm Matt Morgan

      I don’t list my sexuality (gay) on my Facebook profile, but it still targets me based on what its cookies dug up from blogs and such I read.

      The article opened discussing Uganda. Facebook is international, you can get in deep shit for being outed. Privacy, in this situation, is matter of staying away from being persecuted. That is one reason I can think of why it is a problem, thanks for your healthy skepticism.

      • Ironaddict06

        Yea your correct. I see how this can be a problem in Uganda and the Middle East, but in Western Countries this should be a non issue.

  • Wastelandindustrial

    worst Disinfo article ever.

  • Wastelandindustrial

    worst Disinfo article ever.

  • http://twitter.com/enxnautm Matt Morgan

    I don’t list my sexuality (gay) on my Facebook profile, but it still targets me based on what its cookies dug up from blogs and such I read.

    The article opened discussing Uganda. Facebook is international, you can get in deep shit for being outed. Privacy, in this situation, is matter of staying away from being persecuted. That is one reason I can think of why it is a problem, thanks for your healthy skepticism.

  • Ironaddict06

    Yea your correct. I see how this can be a problem in Uganda and the Middle East, but in Western Countries this should be a non issue.

  • Potter Dee

    It depends on the type of advertising… a friend of mine recently remarked that 9 out of 10 ads he gets are “looking for hot gay sex?” or “anonymous bears for your pleasure”, the last one… “how are your AIDS medications working?”

    He’s an older man, but can you imagine being in highschool and getting this stuff all the time?

  • Potter Dee

    It depends on the type of advertising… a friend of mine recently remarked that 9 out of 10 ads he gets are “looking for hot gay sex?” or “anonymous bears for your pleasure”, the last one… “how are your AIDS medications working?”

    He’s an older man, but can you imagine being in highschool and getting this stuff all the time?

  • http://www.skysenshi.com skysenshi

    And here I thought I was imagining things…when I started creating a group just especially for my gay and lesbian friends (so I wouldn’t accidentally out them while discussing delicate issues), Facebook suddenly gave me an alert on the right sidebar giving suggestions on who should be on the group.

    It freaked me out because no way did I even indicate that I’m grouping people according to sexual orientation. But the names it came up with shocked me because…while some of them are out, a good chunk of the suggested names are people whom I just suspect to be gay and are in the closet. This is just…whoa!

  • http://www.skysenshi.com/ skysenshi

    And here I thought I was imagining things…when I started creating a group just especially for my gay and lesbian friends (so I wouldn’t accidentally out them while discussing delicate issues), Facebook suddenly gave me an alert on the right sidebar giving suggestions on who should be on the group.

    It freaked me out because no way did I even indicate that I’m grouping people according to sexual orientation. But the names it came up with shocked me because…while some of them are out, a good chunk of the suggested names are people whom I just suspect to be gay and are in the closet. This is just…whoa!

  • RandomEmail

    The Gay adverts are fairly shocking! After I got FB-raped, and my interested changed to men, every advert down the side was for holidays to ‘gay’ islands and gay partner finding services.

    Once back to straight, I got a mixture of burger, beer and video game ads… rather poor show from FB really – I’m sure gay guy and girls are interested just as much as the straight in beer, burger and games, not just troppical bum-fun islands.

  • RandomEmail

    The Gay adverts are fairly shocking! After I got FB-raped, and my interested changed to men, every advert down the side was for holidays to ‘gay’ islands and gay partner finding services.

    Once back to straight, I got a mixture of burger, beer and video game ads… rather poor show from FB really – I’m sure gay guy and girls are interested just as much as the straight in beer, burger and games, not just troppical bum-fun islands.

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